Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sunday Sermon: Does the industry do enough?

I'm helping fill in for Von...

I've recently had to step into the breach over at House of Paincakes with one of their organisers over there Lauby. We've both had to fill in for Von, one of their regular writers, who is currently mid house move, and thus doesn't have the time to churn out articles right now. To be brutally honest I'm not too sure either Lauby or myself were quite as well prepared for 'filling in' for Von as we could've been. But, what this has meant is that what we have done is create an interesting discussion around a topic that has got me thinking quite deeply, so as I say it has at least been interesting to me. Hopefully what it has sparked within me you will find interesting too. I've often spoken about our hobby's need for evangelists, and I still think that we as gamers have a duty to evangelise and recruit for the hobby. After all we too have a vested interest in keeping our hobby going and thriving, it's in our own interests to grow our local communities. However, my conversations with Lauby over at House of Paincakes have focused on the industry's role in all of this, in short are they taking the piss? Do they do enough themselves or are they far too reliant on us gamers to do the hard work for them? In the first conversation we touched on whether the hobby is producing the sort of gateway products that are required to help successfully rope new gamers into the hobby.

The impressive St Louis Gateway Arch

It's a difficult topic to define, and a difficult task for the companies themselves to broach. It's not easy for a company to produce a single successful game, let alone an extra separate product to suck people to that game as a gateway. But firstly let me define what I believe a gateway product is. In my second conversation with Lauby I think I did a good job of defining what I view as a gateway product. In that article I mentioned what I consider to be the holy trinity of wargaming, collecting miniatures (including painting), playing the games and reading the back story. These three things will have different levels of importance to us all individually, but all are intrinsic to what we call 'the hobby'. Without one of those facets I think it's clear to see that what is presented or served up to us is somewhat diminished. Pre-painted miniature games aren't 'the hobby', and painting without the games is something entirely different also, both 'hobbies' have their merits, but they're not 'the hobby'. Also a number of companies who have started selling a game without a strong backstory have rapidly learned of such elements relative importance to the sale of their product as a whole. As Mantic are just now discovering with Kings of War, and look to be addressing now by building a strong background with the announcement that the 3rd edition of Kings of War is getting a proper rulebook release... complete with full Mantica background!

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's - Two Trinities

So if we break these three elements apart we can see that fundamentally there are actually quite a few ways of 'hooking' people into the hobby via exposing people to one or two elements at a time. I think the fundamental core of the hobby though is around collecting and painting miniatures to play games. I think if asked to define the hobby that is the sort of description that most of us would come up with, wouldn't it? Any way I think Lauby's and my own instant reaction therefore was to think of products that provide this vital crux of the hobby when we talked about gateway products. Hence us first talking about Heroquest, Space Crusade and their ilk in those House of Paincakes articles, others too fall into this same trap, but there are other products and ways of developing gateway products. But it's these sorts of board game based products that roped me into 'the hobby' as a child, and I guess they were actually really quite successful at snaring their prey back then when I was starting out. I still believe those sorts of products actually have a vital place within the industry and I would love to see more of them, Fantasy Flight Games, Asmodee and many more besides churn out exceptional board games with a broader market appeal... but do they actually lead on into the wider hobby? Are they fully integrated with it, or are they part of a different subset of the industry?

I personally think they're a subset of the industry, a different facet of gaming if you will. Ironically many of Fantasy Flight Games products are actually living off of spin-off sales from the industry behemoth that is Games Workshop, when they could actually help grow Games Workshops recruitment rate. There we have a company that actually produces great gateway products thriving off of the popularity of a wargames company, and I'm sure selling in many respects to the wrong crowd from an industry wide growth perspective. Where those products need to be is in toy shops, supermarkets or other major high street retailers. It's no good from a growth in participant numbers perspective shifting product to the same old customers. It might be successful in a capital growth perspective by sweating more money out of their current customer base, but that's a fragile plan, and it has clearly got a natural ceiling limit on it, as we as consumers only have so much disposable income between us. If all these companies are doing is actually having a bun fight over an already established marketplace is it really going to grow the industry as a whole, or damage it in the long run?

That of course is a rhetorical question, yes it is, don't argue with me I'm on a roll here, the answer is of course no, it's not going to grow the industry's marketplace and yes it'll damage the health of the industry in the long run! Here I think is where other companies in the industry do really owe Games Workshop an absolutely massive debt of gratitude. Quite simply put, without Games Workshops ceaseless, never ending drive for new recruits to the hobby, and their pretty darn impressive high street presence, then I don't believe other companies would be thriving in the way that they seem to be right now. Simply put, without Games Workshop being there I'm not so sure Privateer Press, Battlefront and all the others would be doing as well as they are. Obviously you could argue that without Games Workshop somebody else would have occupied that market space, but reality is we'll never know, so they rightly get the plaudits for now. But I've had a worry over recent years about Games Workshops ability to keep recruiting at their current rate, and indeed with the products that they sell.

They might not be popular with some, but what they do is vital for the industry.

Let's be clear here about what I'm talking about, it is the cost, scope and scale of Games Workshops two main products and games of Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 that are at a point whereby I think they actively discourage many newcomers to the hobby. They're simply too big, prohibitively so I believe and the task of buying, assembling and painting those miniatures is so daunting for many that I've seen many customers turned off before they've even tried the hobby. When I worked at a Games Workshop store I had a manager who was actually rightly proud of the fact that for every four new customers that walked through that shops door, his staff produced three new gamers. Now other stores weren't doing quite as well as that in the area, or possibly nationally, but many weren't that far off of those figures. The product wasn't as daunting in many respects, and it was far easier to find a way into the hobby. There were specialist games, Lord of the Rings was a smaller scale game and the films were hugely popular, but without a shadow of a doubt during all this it was still the two main products of Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 that we were recruiting to the most.  No question about it, but other factors like Specialist Games helped us in our task.

Why don't they still sell pure games in a box?

When I speak to many of the store managers that I know now they'd be happy to get recruitment figures of 1 in 10, and I think given the initial cost of getting everything together to start playing those games, if they are doing that then they're doing a damn fine job. The other issue of course is that I can see all too well that they're not getting as many new customers through those doors as they once were either, so it's almost like a double whammy. It seems to me that Games Workshops product has hit an uncomfortable size, scale and simplification point that has put them in a little spot of bother for me. For a newcomer their product is easy to learn, it is easy to play and it is accessible from a rules perspective... but their product is now so expensive and daunting that it is actively turning people away. Then at the other end we have experienced gamers who have all they need to play the games and are 'invested' already, and who are put off by starting any new armies because of the cost, but also vitally,  put off investing further into games that I often hear being described as dumbed down.

They tried a game in a box but I feel they missed the point.

I'm not going to get into whether that is the case or not, but it is certainly the case that the perception is amongst many gamers that Games Workshop simply aren't recruiting as many gamers as they once were. Don't get me wrong they still recruit impressive numbers by industry standards, just not as much as they once were, meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum they seem to be hemorrhaging customers to competitors at a far greater rate than I've ever seen before. I'd love to actually sit down with the stats to see if that is actually true, or just how true it is, but it does feel about right in terms of a guesstimation of their current situation. The scale of the issue though is what is debatable right now. So the question is if the industry is starting to lose its biggest recruiter, and is actually in many respects directly harming them, then when are these other companies going to step up to the plate and start doing some bloody recruitment themselves? Because as far as I can see Privateer Press are set up to syphon off disgruntled Games Workshop rage quitters, and most of the other companies out there are trying to do the exact same thing. It's a valid business plan as of now, but will it always remain so?

That business plan only works if two things actually continue to happen:

  1. Games Workshop continue to be able to recruit at the same levels they always have done, and it's currently debatable whether they are capable of doing this.
  2. And that between 7 to 10 years into their hobby careers most gamers still become disgruntled with Games Workshops products.

This is my point, the rest of the industry has to wait for Games Workshop to piss some of their recruits and current customer base off before they get to have a crack at them. There is a time lag between recruitment by Games Workshop and poaching by Mantic, Battlefront, Privateer Press, Corvus Belli et al. If Games Workshop ever do start seriously struggling for recruitment these companies won't feel the pain of that straight away themselves, it'll take a couple of years time lag before their own business plans weaknesses are fully exposed. If they haven't prepared for that or planned to recruit themselves there is a strong chance that they won't be able to take the hit. My solution? Start bloody trying to recruit your own customers right now!

Monsterapocalpse could be great gateway product.

Games Workshops high street presence is an expensive and costly burden for them, so they appear to me to have gotten themselves into an awful negative spiral. This spiral is seeing them increase the cost of their product above inflation every year here in the UK and also over time increase the number of individual purchases you have to make to play their games. They're doing this to try and support this expensive beast of a retail chain and head office they've developed in support of its recruitment machine. Yet this very process it seems to me is actually counterproductive to their main business plans aim of recruit, recruit and recruit some more. But, these smaller more nimble companies don't have the same sorts of problems that Games Workshop do, Games Workshop needs to look at a complete rethink and restructuring before they can respond to the marketplace. Not so these smaller firms, their products are only supporting normally relatively small business operations and usually no retail chain presence at all. They are reliant on independents stocking their products, and no doubt those very same retailers own survival probably depends on selling Games Workshop product. We need some more companies to start stepping up to the plate in my opinion not just for the independents but also themselves.

I think we need more  of this sort of product in the right shops!

I'm not advocating Privateer Press or Battlefront should start setting up their own retail presence and start developing their own retail chain, no because I think that's a costly way to go about things, and actually not the smartest way either. I'm saying they need to start developing products specifically as gateway products that can be sold in book stores like Black Library books are. I think some Infinity comics or novels would go down a treat with sci-fi geeks, and the steampunk nature of the HoMachine universe certainly has wider appeal beyond wargamers surely? I want other companies to start producing smaller games and products that can be sold in comic book stores, super markets and other such retailers. I want to see Mantic develop a deluxe version of Dwarf Kings Hold containing all three boxes rolled into one release, with some Army Painter products inside, to be put on the shelves of my local Tesco's. I want to see companies try other avenues and ways of getting their product to market. The world that the hobby finds itself in now is so vastly different from the one that Games Workshop's retail chain led business inhabited in the early 90's. We have massive online retailers and hypermarkets that simply sell everything and anything to everyone. These companies shift product like it's going out of style and they are bloody good at it, so why the hell haven't more games companies tried courting these retailers to help propagate the hobby and sell their product?

Because these retailers exist, they will continue to exist and they are shaping and indeed controlling the way that we as consumers behave in the marketplace. More than 20 years ago the majority of the shopping in my home city of Birmingham was conducted in it's city center. The local authorities economic development departments data states it was a huge amount actually, close to 70% of it. That has now almost flipped 180 degrees on it's head and only 34% of projected spending actually happens in the city center right now, despite huge improvements in the physical environment and the shopping experience. No, the majority of actual spend in Birmingham like most cities around the world now takes place in supermarkets and some out of town shopping centers. That's not even taking into consideration what online shopping has done to our spending habits. The industry needs to wake up to these patterns of behaviour quickly, and exploit them as best they can. Because there is only so much us hobbyists can do to promote on their behalf, there is only so much that small independent retailers can do for them and quite frankly there is only so much Games Workshop can do. It's time some of them stepped up to the plate and played ball, and if they need a star batter with fresh ideas then they know exactly where I am. Peace out!


  1. A great article that I couldn't agree more with. Everybody I see on forums etc who posts the sentiment of "I wish Games Workshop would go out of business" should be pointed to this as to why exactly it's such a monumentally bad idea. I've often held this opinion myself for years.

    You're right though, many of the other industries rely on someone finding a game store and getting into themselves. There's no form of promotion. Who knows if I would've become a gamer if I didn't see an advert on TV for Space Crusade and Heroquest all those years ago. And cause it was a collaboration with MB, it was in regular toy shops, so I promptly got Space Crusade and here I am, all those years later, still playing with toy soldiers.

    It wasn't until one of my friends at GW took me along to my local games shop I even realised that other miniature games existed.

    As you say though, the cost to GW of running those stores is astronomical, and something that would be difficult for anyone to start doing really. And in the wake of reducing numbers of customers the main way of showing profit, and pay for the stores etc, is to continue to put prices up. And in some ways this is also the problem, since GW is owned by shareholders, they don't care about what's fair or good for the game, they just want to see profit. They probably have no idea what they've invested in.

    I would love to see another company get to the size of GW and have stores, but still be run by people who cared about the game, and didn't have to answer to shareholders, but I think in the current economic climate that's unlikely to happen.

    1. Thanks Mecha Ace, I aim to please!!! :)

      I'd also like to point out though that GW are almost certainly far happier to lose customers from their brand of the hobby to someone elses brand of the hobby, rather than lose them out of the hobby for good.

      GW has always had a retention issue and problem and make no mistake about it, they are happy the likes of Privateer Press and Battlefront are around to keep us all still circulating in the hobby. Because that way there is a chance some of us might go back eventually, and I'm sure some do.

      So it's not all a one way relationship. But some of these companies need to start thinking about how they're going to do this recruitment thing for themselves. And GW seriously need to think about how they retain their customers and hobbyists as a whole.

      Because when I was a staff member we noticed our regulars all got hobby burnout at the same time once, with both 40k and fantasy. Our response? We started a hugely successful Blood Bowl league that was split into 4 divisions with 12 teams in each and ran a really huge Battlefleet Gothic campaign. We had their excellent specialist games to keep people cycling in the hobby and spending money in our tills. The current Games Workshop does not have those tools available to them.

    2. I think you make a really good point re GW liking the idea of people staying within the wider hobby even if its not their version of the hobby; I think once we've been bitten by the GW bug and then move on to other games you never fully get away... I've not played anything GW related for some time but I still found myself dropping considerable sums on the new Empire releases )despite them going well down the building/painting/playing with schedule) purely because Empire are 'my army'. The same goes for the next edition of 40K; I probably won't play much but I'm resigned to the fact that I'll find myself buying the rulebook, just because...

    3. I know they do!!! :P

      There's no question that GW are happier to have PP, BF, CB etc around the place stopping rage quitters disappearing over the hill and doing something sensible like getting girlfriends and settling down. ;)

      It's not all a one way thing, it really isn't. But I do feel that other companies really need to start stepping up their own recruitment right now. Because the sausage machine has been starved of fresh meat for a good 2 or 3 years now and that'll feed into these other companies a few years down the line.

  2. I've thought in the past that there are certain types of retailers that would be well suited to stocking wargaming products; there are a lot of stores that sell toys and have hobby supply sections and could therefore be an ideal place for toy soldiers. I think that GW have run with this idea previously in the UK by getting one of the big hobby store chains to carry their product but this could potentially be viable for other manufacturers. In my local area we don't have a GW nor do we have a proper gaming store so having hobby related stuff availble in more stores would be a great move. GW did start supplying to a large out of town retailler here but that proved to be a short lived experiment. The only reason I knew they carried the GW line of products was because they happened to appear in the directory of White Dwarf and when I went to investigate they had a single stand containing a few of the starter boxes tucked away in a corner; the shop didn't seem to put any effort into selling the product and I don't think that this fit with GW's approach.

    This leads on to the suggestion of improved starter products. The boxes currently on offer need a certain amount of support from the retailer, an in-house expert or aficionado that can help and advise the customer, whereas a proper starter product would eliminate the need for this and allow the retailer to simply plonk it on a shelf, forget about it and watch the money roll in. Retailers carrying these new and improved start up sets wouldn't even need to worry about what to stock hobby wise as the product would be stand alone with the purpose simply to lure people in who could then find there way to a GW store, FLGS or the internet should they wish to start the hobby proper.

    Starter sets like this from various manufacturers would also be useful for local game shops to get an idea for interest in other games; our local shop stocks GW products, Fantasy Flight games and other board games and has very recently set up a trade account with Spartan Games but flat out refuses to get products from any of the other big players in the wargaming world, having decent starter sets may encourage shop keepers like this to experiment with some other game systems and could be made available to a few of the big wholesale suppliers to make it easy to get them into stores.

    I remember years ago that Magic the Gathering cards and a lot of the other similar card based games used to only be available through gaming shops but then started popping up in shops like W H Smiths and even near the counters in HMV; a similar approach could be viable for wargames if (and that's a pretty big 'if') a more intelligent approach to starter sets is taken.

    Finally, I know that my gateway into the hobby came in the form of Hero Quest and it seems that a lot of the people I speak to in the hobby came via the same or a very similar route which suggests it works so why not exploit it?

    1. Why don't you just say Hobbycraft? :P

      They also stocked FoW for a short while along with Gale Force 9 products, but they stopped just before Christmas. I spoke to an assistant manager at a local Hobbycraft over it and he said the issue was that they didn't feel like they got any support to sell the product, and that bot GW and FoW product didn't sell itself of the shelf very well. I did push him on that and got some interesting info from him... but I'll share that another time. ;)

      I remember seeing Hero Quest for sale in my local Sainsbury's as a kid and I remember convincing my mother I needed a new copy because the old one was knackered... it was a bit dog eared but it certainly wasn't knackered. Despite some people claiming these games didn't get people into the hobby, I think it's clear it had a huge impact on our generation. I don't see why similar products wouldn't have a similar impact nowadays.

  3. Some products that we've had some success introducing people to gaming locally are the D&D boardgames like Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon, they are self contained games that are quite reminicent of Hero Quest. They have a bit of a story that progresses from one quest to another, an easy to learn combat mechanic, high production quality and they benefit from not needing the Evil Wizard to run the bad guy's.

    They currently suffer from the same issue as Fantasy Flights games in that they are stocked in the same game stores as the D&D RPG, but with D&D brand currently owned by Hasbro it would be nice to see them re-branded and on the shelf down at the local toy store between Hasbro Monopoly and Hasbro Risk.

    1. I've played the D&D Adventure system games, all three of them, and indeed reviewed them on this very Blog. They're undoubtedly a great gateway product to the D&D hobby and have much to commend them as a product. However, I'm not convinced they feed well into wargaming. I think wargames manufacturers need to do their own versions, Mantic are giving it a damn good stab actually with Dwarf Kings Hold and Project Pandora.

  4. For a company the size anyone but GW to put single box starter games into essentially Walmart or Target here in the states they essentially will have to write the whole cost off. The desired price point such that you can compete with all the other games on the shelf in such an enviroment (probably 40-50 dollars at the top end) means that you will be lucky to recover the production costs not including shipping, warehousing, and return costs. That only gets you a little 2 ft by 1.5 ft piece of shelf space for a few months before they discount you item to move unsold units. I am not sure what you have to do it actually get a well displayed end cap but a small company with one product is probably not going to get it. Lego gets like half an eisle but they do 3.5 B sales so like 20 times GW which probably makes them 100 times PP and 500 times mantic.

    1. Maybe it's different in the states, but here on the UK our super markets actively search out these sorts of quirky products. I've been surprised to see a few 'interesting' things in my local supermarkets. But why not preach to other geeks via comic book stores etc? There are other ways of getting product to market.

    2. Not something you would see in a major US supermarket. Many US comic book stores already are game stores also. My closest Comic store stocks lots of board games but no games workshop last time I checked.

    3. Interesting eriochrome. I'm had very mixed reviews off of people in the States in terms of the shops available locally and the way shopping is done. I guess the US is such a vast country that it varies massively.

      Here in the UK our comic book stores might also sell cult TV memorabilia and action figures etc. But they wouldn't veer too far from that market. Yet when they have branched out into other pursuits they've been really successful. On of my local stores started stocking board games... they sold out of their initial stock in two days and they couldn't quite believe it. Geeks are geeks at the end of the day.

  5. Interesting that Victrix have made moves to recruit, by having their products stocked in Boyes in the UK. Ok, a small thing, but every little helps? I'd e interested how ithe partnership is working out.

    I do try to look up and visit hobby stores all across the country when I'm in town. I do find many hobby stores and related shops are quite daunting to enter, even as a hobbyist of many years. The product is often poorly presented and I've come across colossally unhelpful staff. I include wargaming, model, board game and even comic stores here. Ok, this is by no means an issue unique to our hobby, but I think it adds tom the recruitment problem.

    Of course this is something of a generalisation and I do know of some great hobby stores herein the UK.

    1. Yes I remember reading that Victrix story, and I believe Hornby are now trying to distribute Mantic's stock to the same toy stores that buy their model trains. So their are people out there looking at new ways of disseminating their product and getting to new markets. I think the approachability thing is right. A former work colleague came with me to Waylands Games in my home town of Birmingham. With me he was OK in the store. He went back a few weeks later on his own to buy a board game that he'd seen and liked the look of... and the staff didn't want to talk to him. He ended up leaving with nothing. It's just not conducive to promoting product.

  6. Honestly, I'm not too sure about the much vaunted recruiting power of GW. GW is certainly the alpha and omega of a lot of peoples' wargaming experience; however, the market of wargamers so overlaps that of collectable card gamers and role-playing gamers, I suspect that most people with the will to play wargames would have found another entrance. Certainly, a lot of people got in through Heroquest and Space Crusade, but those games are long gone.

    Since GW's retail stores directly compete with independent game stores it is not unreasonable to say that everywhere there is a GW there would have been an independent store; thus anyone who walks into a GW and becomes a wargamer would have walked into somewhere else and become a wargamer.

    GW's marketing genius was creating an easy to understand pre-packaged wargame system that required little-to-no independent work by the player. This is the model that Battlefront and PP have copied with decent success. This allowed more and younger people to get involved with less commitment. In that way GW certainly does bring people in.

    The point you make is that GW is getting too expensive to serve as an effective way of getting people into the hobby. I agree with that. The line started to be crossed five or six years ago. When I saw GW price Battle for Skull Pass at $60 I thought 'That's great. it costs the same as a video game, tones of people will buy that.' But now starter sets are $100, which is a lot harder to get people to spend.

    The fantasy wargaming industry has started to become very cannibalistic and newly rising set themselves up as not-GWs rather than fully entities in their own rights. Mantic is clearly the worst offender there, but a lot of companies feed on GW's leftovers.

    Does the industry as a whole need a simple effective gateway to bring people in? Clearly it does. By the same token it needs to be recognized that the potential GW costumer is also the potential PP costumer, and the potential WoTC costumer. What the hobby need is a way for people to know that it exists. GW did a great job of showing its own flag while blocking potential competitors from its customers' sight. The problem now is that if GW is all you see you might write off wargaming as a hugely time consuming and expensive pass time.

    It seems that no one can come up with a new way to recruit other than just picking over the same ground. The decline of brick & mortar shopping makes retail stores a bad idea. I don't know if we need another Heroquest since the internet makes it unnecessary for people to discover the product on the shelf. What the hobby needs is simple games with low barriers to entry (cost and time) that are well advertised. Once the potential customer knows that the hobby is out there, he'll find the rest on his own.

    1. GW's product certainly helped 'rationalise' the hobby. They had everything all under one roof, under one name and made it easy. It's something others have learned from, no doubt. But I guess the thing is as I say in my article, we'll never know if somebody else would have stepped into that breach had they not been their. Also how different their approach might have been.

      All we can go on is what has actually happened. For me GW have recruited an awful lot of people into this hobby. I've not met many people who have come into wargames playing other companies products first. That might change, and I really hope it does. But right now the vast majority of gamers have been recruited by GW's.

      I agree that there is an issue of raising awareness. On this score I think we could all learn from the 80's D&D cartoon or indeed Heavy Gear Blitz cartoon from the early noughties. Here were things that were advertainment (God I hate marketing speak) but when I mentione HGB to some younger gamers I know, they all instantly were aware of what I was talking about because of the cartoons.

      Cartoons I might add I wasn't really aware of at all. There are ways of getting the message out there and bringing people into contact with the product. So for me it's about trying to be a little bit creative in getting the message out, because preaching to the converted isn't really that hard or in the long run worthwhile.

    2. Certainly GW recruited a lot of people, and a lot of companies have made a living by clinging to GW's belly fur. However, I see a strong difference between GW the miniature game company and GW the retail chain.

      GW games brought a lot of people into the hobby. I'm less sure about GW retail. I discovered GW when I went to my FLGS to buy some D&D books and saw the (4th, 5th?) edition WHFB boxed set on a shelf and bought it because it looked awesome. I doubt I would ever have sought out or gone into I GW store if I hadn't bumped into the game elsewhere, which comes back to your point about needing to get introductory games into mainstream stores; something I wholeheartedly feel needs to happen.

      Since no one is going to walk into a GW store to buy MtG cards or a copy of Monopoly see a wargame being played and decide to try it out. The GW retail chain, while great for GW in many ways, is, or has been, bad for the hobby by limiting its exposure to potential recruits with other, but similar, interests. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that GW games have been the single most effective recruiting tool for since H.G. Wells and GW's apparent decline is very worrisome.

    3. I get the sense Spiffy that you might be an American, and if so I concede things may indeed be different in the States. However, here in the UK the GW retail presence is actually in most major towns and cities and indeed plenty of minor ones too. They're on most high streets too, so people here in the UK and some European countries also do just walk into their stores. So it has had a huge influence here in the UK and it's that presence that allowed them to grow into this huge global firm.

  7. I doubt I'll ever completely desert Games Workshop, because they'll always have me hooked on one of the 'Hobby Trinity' - the fluff. The collecting and painting is almost entirely given over to Spanish tender at the moment, while the gaming is too far away. But, if I didn't have Infinity (or some other cheep-cheep alternative) to occupy my time, I doubt I would be even half as interested in wargaming anymore, why would I when there are a bazillion indie videogames out there at £10 a pop?

    As for the recruitment, I've always thought GW should lower their prices significantly, say by 25% or perhaps more. What they lose by lowering the price they'll more than make up by the amount they'd sell. What? Tactical Marines are £15 a box? I'll take 3 and build a new DIY Marine army called the Enveloping Octopuses. People will be going 'Hey, now I can affordably build 2 armies at a time!' They need to do that. So badly. Plus it would give them so much customer goodwill, which is worth its weight in diamond-encrusted platinum ingots.

    Although, the one redeeming quality of the decision to reboot the new citadel paints, is that they're geared towards getting the new recruits' armies painted rather well rather quickly. Apart from the fact that they're decent paints, that's the one redeeming feature...

    1. Prices are certainly a major issue for me. I do love wargaming, and I devote a lot of time and money to it, yet I don't play any GW games, because, bluntly, they are too expensive. GW's prices have beat inflation by two or three times over the last ten years, and at some point it because too much for me. However, a lot of people keep buying, I think this is down to two things: fluff and officaldom.

      A lot of people like, even love, GW's fluff and that devotion to the background keeps them playing through frustration with GW. Also some feel that they can only play GW games with GW figures, something that I cannot understand, but it keeps a lot of people buying expensive GW products, which in turn lets GW mark its prices up.

    2. Luckily I can get my fluff fix from Black Library, far less expensive to buy the occasional book than to invest in building (or even merely expanding) an army.

    3. @GoldenKaos, all the 25% off move would do is reverse 10 years of inflation. ;)

      It's not going to happen for a number of reason right now and I don't think GW are in any position right now to mix things up like that. As I've said before, they need a complete rethink in my opinion about the direction in which they are heading. Share holders do want to see a return on their investment, no question about it. But there are a number of ways of doing that:

      1) Sell more product
      2) reduce business costs
      3) increase cost of product

      Those are the three main ways of increasing profitability. GW has reduced it's costs recently in a number of ways, Finecasts, single person stores etc. The one thing I seriously doubt they're doing is shifting more stock. I mean if I go onto ebay right now I bet I could find 10 fully sealed brand new Tactical marines for less than £10.

      Part of their problem is that there is so much unused GW second hand stock out there that's still relevant to the current product line that they're arguably the only wargames company competing with the second hand market. If they'd changed Space Marines slightly they'd have destroyed all of that in one fell swoop... but they don't, they rest on their laurels and think they can peddle the same product 20 years later and claim that Fincast makes it a better miniature.

      @Spiffy, yep GW have really strong brand loyalty off of many of their customers and in many ways much of it is well and truly deserved. But much of it also springs from the fact that many of their customers don't know about anybody elses product. But hey, blind loyalty is still loyalty... until somebody or something lifts that veil!

    4. the Ebay point is a good one. I never buy new if I can find what I want second hand. This isn't just to save money, I could afford what I wanted new, but I don't want to buy from GW because I don't want to feel like I've been ripped off.

      Perhaps some part of me wants to punish GW for all the past insults they have done me, but like some abused wife I can't quite bring myself to escape from the abusive relationship completely!

    5. Ah yes the abusive relationship... I wrote an article about that you know!!! lol.

      The Ebay issue only ever seem to really affect GW as far as I can tell. Sure I see a bit of HoMachine on there from time to time but honestly not that much. They need to give people a reason NOT to go to the second hand market. But they seem incapable.

    6. I'd be interested to see that article, could you post a link?

      The secondhand market for GW product is vast, and it helps conceal a large amount of counterfeit stuff too, both things generated by the over the top prices.

    7. Here's my article about the GW abusive relationship:

      While I agree that GW prices create a problem, I really don't think they're to blame for either the second hand market and in particular counterfeit stuff. I think it's fair to say that I have personally been at times one of GWs staunchest critics, but the reality is counterfeiting has very little to do with whether or not prices are 'fair' whatever that means.

      There have been many economic studies and indeed real world examples that show that price actually has very little impact on the level of piracy and counterfeiting. It will always be cheaper for someone to rip thngs off and do things illegally as they won't be paying taxes and can cut corners and breach H&S laws etc. which do cost a considerable amount.

      What I will say though is that GW's prices do leave a lot of 'space' for a variety of counterfeiters to ply their trade. As it were, a broader spectrum of counterfeiters can exist the the price banding they are currently using. As to the second hand market, it's an interesting one.

      The price should theoretically mean that GW players should be more reluctant to sell their stuff and take a loss on it. The fact people are either speaks to the fact that many gamers actually buy too much crap and then try to shift it afterwards OR, that many gamers just quit the GW hobby because they don't enjoy what GW serve up. Whether that be monotonous painting schedules or turgid games.

  8. Huh, until reading this I had actually forgotten my routes into this hobby, Yes it was GW that paved the way forward to what Im up to now but back when I first started it was Battletech... indirectley.

    Anyhow, the idea of getting games like Hero Quest and Space Crusade on the shelves again would be great. I remember owning both when I was young, though I had Space Hulk before I had Crusade and thus the mini's and boards were just used in other games. The cool thing with them was, they were advertised on TV. Everyone knew what they were and where they could get one. With GW and all the others I have never seen any advertising outside of the Hobby itself. Immagine popping a Warmachines Colossus advert on in the middle of an episode of Transformers Prime.
    Or giving away a free Mini with a News Paper, hey do it like Lego, Take your Voucher to your local GW and get your free Hero Mini. LOL


    1. Again all valid ideas. I'm sure there are cost implication to these things that clearly scare the living daylights out of finance managers at these firms with such schemes. lol.

      But they do deserve further investigation in those companies for sure. I just think it's got to be worth the risk to somebody to go for a big push on something somewhere. Sure it's a risky business but who dares wins! Right?

    2. Well it worked for MB and GW all those years ago, GW was vertaully unheard of outside of the "in crowd" when Heroquest first came out but since then its got bigger and "sigh" bigger. The games were expensive then as well £20 if I remember. Now adays £20 wont even buy you a travel Cluedo so I'm sure they could pop a £50 - £60 price point (PS3 GAME) on them and it would still sell.

      I'm not saying Plop Warhammer 40k in your Local Co-op but maybe something Like Space Hulk, a stand alone game with some back story and a modeling section with some pretty pictures of mini's available via the GW stores.
      It's going to wet appitites and people (humans) always want MORE, its the way we are.

      I use GW as an example but any company could do it. Even if people only buy the game and never take it any further then its still money in the bank. The models dont even have to be all that great, Fantasy Flights Talisman and Descent mini's are crap but the games sell. I even see them in my Local Waterstones from time to time. As long as its well presented and in a pretty box people will buy it on Impulse if, and I mean IF its in the right place.

      Also make sure the Mini's are to scale with the rest of the Range, Even if the quality is rubbish they can still fill ranks and this would also help people move into the hobby.

      Maybe we should just start our own company, I'll stand outside my local GW and hand out flyers ^.^


    3. Voidsign, I'm seriously considering starting my own company! I too am not advocating having the entire 40k range in a Tesco's or even Assault on Black Reach. It has to be a targeted product that would work in whatever retail environment we're talking about. I too have seen FFG product in my local Waterstones too. They had a lot of H.P. Lovecraft games for sale next to... dun dun deeerrrr!!! The H.P. Lovecraft special leather bound editions on a special display. While there I saw three people pick up Mansions of Madness. It can work if targeted well.

  9. Selling in a book shop like Waterstones is the perfect jumping point to get a Game / Games seen and baught. No mater what genre the game is there will be an area within that store that will suit it. You want a Game about knights fighting Dragons stick it in Fantasy, you want a game about Super Humans from the future fighting rabid organisms pop it in Sci-fi, etc etc.

    I've thought about starting up my own business as well and its been a topic on conversation in my household for a long while. I did start casting Scenic Bases and selling them on Ebay, but stuff happened and it all went south.

    How would you want to approch the wargaming market ? would you sell figure with no game in order to fund a game in the future ala Kingdom Death, Soda Pop etc. Or would you start out releasing a Boxset self contained game, with the option of expansions in the future ?

    Also I meant no disrespect to you with my last post and hope that I didn't cause any.


    1. Trust me, if you'd have offended me I'd let you know, don't you worry about that! lol. I'm no shrinking violet!!! Besides there wasn't anything in any of the comments you've left that I could take any offence at, was there?

      As to the company I've been considering, I'm not really sure how I'd describe it, but it's certain;y not a miniature or games company!!! I'm currently working through things to see if it's a viable iea with some friends. Who knows I might actually get something up and running by the end of the year... but only if I'm convinced it's needed and it will work.

    2. LOL thats good, I wasn't too sure if I bugged you or not, dunno why, I just had... a feeling *looks to the sky*.

      Anyhow, I found that a shock when you said it wasn't either miniatures or games. LOL not saying that you have a one track mind. My interest however is tweeked.

      Good luck with your venture, dude. If it's something that you will enjoy and love then go for it.


  10. Games Workshop could turn its fortunes around with one single move, make an official skirmish version of 40K. Put it in the BRB as an optional way to play 500 point games with a high level of detail.

    Then take a leaf out of PPs book and sell 500 point ready made armies for each faction, not the random Battleforces but something actually useable. These should be cheap, should include the skirmish rules and there should be an inexpensive tailored paint set available to go with each factions starter set.

    This would give a great gateway into the hobby, plus give the old hands something they want (detail).

    1. Yeah I can see what you're driving at but I think there is a problem with that plan... more detailed rules aren't conducive to good gateway products in my opinion. Also if they do mini 40k and people are happy with it they won't migrate to proper 40k. I can understand why people want to see it, and I too would like to see it. BUT... from a business perspective I can totally understand why GW will never do it.

      What I will say though is that like you I often scratch my head at the blisteringly obvious way of increasing sales that GW seems to miss at every single bloody opportunity. They have a massive range of miniatures and each miniature really only has one purpose. To be used in the game it was designed for. That's a criminal waste of product and resource. Like you they should have multiple games that give gamers a reason to buy product.

      I think HeroQuest could be used to boost sales of Warhammer miniatures easily. Produce a game, and set up a digital hub where PDF stats for every monster / troop type can be downloaded for free. I now have two reason to buy a Rat Ogre 1) to use in my Skaven army or 2) to throw at my Adventurers in some dank dungeon somewhere. Hell using that Rat Ogre in HeroQuest might give me the drive to buy an entire Skaven army. I have a similar ideas for how you could maximise the 40k range too.

    2. OK well maybe we make the level of detail optional too, or on a sliding scale with lots of optional rules you don't need to start with. This could be an incentive to get the full rule book, if the optional rules are left out of the starter sets.

      I got into gaming playing Laserburn which was a 15mm scale precursor to 40K (most of the weapons and much of the fluff got carried over). This was incredibly cheap to get into (£1 maybe bought you a skirmish force since the minis were about 10p each) although the rules were somewhat clunky and overly detailed. Its cheapness meant it functioned well to get people involved. It also meant battles could be fought inside our desks at school!

      Somehow they need to get people into the Warhammer universe and I think a small scale low investment skirmish game is perhaps the way to do this.

      I don't think there would be a problem with people not going up to the full 40k level of game, but even if they didn't GW would get link sales of terrain etc.

      Alternatively as you say stand alone games set in the Warhammer universe could get people involved. Why can I no longer buy Space Hulk? The fact that it sells readily on Ebay for twice its original price shows there is a demand.

      The way Mantic is expanding DKH to include other figures in their range is a good example of how this can be done.

    3. I agree Mantic and Jake Thornton have done a great job of pushing DKH and I'm sure they'll do a grand job of Project Pandora too. GW need to offer product that isn't just large scale conflict and they need to support it long-term... they need specialist games.

  11. I'm really sorry, I didn't have the time to read all the comments, so forgive me if I repeat someone else.

    This is a little doomy and gloomy of me, but do you really think it's possible to get more people into the hobby than there currently are?

    I don't know, I tend to think that what we have here is a niche hobby. It always has been. Out of all the traditional geek-culture pursuits (comics, science fiction, etc) wargaming was probably the least widespread, probably for the same reasons it is still a rare hobby today - it's time and labour intensive and only appeals to certain people. It's easier to read a comic than paint a dozen orks.

    I think what's happened in the recent history of gaming is that Games Workshop, through sheer hard work and bloody-mindedness, managed to artificially raise the number of hobbyists to about the maximum that the population at large could bear. Recently the astonishing rise of other forms of gaming (CCGs, immersive video games) and improvements in tech like the internet are distracting people away from many labour-intensive hobbies.

    It really, genuinely pains me to say it but I think what we are witnessing at the moment is the end of the Golden Age of wargaming, where the hobby goes back to being virtually invisible to the population at large. In the end, GW cannot compete with digital games (or even books and comics) for young people's attention, no matter how much money they sink into maintaining stores, and the other companies are essentially the barbarians at the gates of Rome, pillaging the ruins (the artificially inflated customer base GW has created with their aggressive sales tactics).

    I don't want to be right about this, but I'm afraid I might be.

    1. Wow James, somebody got out of bed on the wrong side!!! :P

      You know what... I disagree and here's why. Everywhere I look I see new gamers starting up round by me. True it's not GW as much anymore but I've seen youngsters join the hobby because there are different types of product around now. Generic Fantasy and Grimdark wasn't and isn't for everyone.

      Also computer games and other forms of entertainment have been around far longer than our blinkered memories might imagine. I remember in the early 90's people telling me computer games would kill the hobby. They haven't yet, and if sales figures are to be believed its stronger now than it's ever been.

      When I look at a country like the USA and a see how big and vast it's population is and just how untapped that market is for growth I see real hope. Why? Because the USA is crammed with nerds and geeks who have yet to discover the hobby. they just need a little push.

    2. Lol I suppose that was pretty negative! Fair enough on your points though. I'm glad you disagree.

      I'm not so optimistic about your computer game point. I'm not suggesting that the hobby will die, I'm suggesting that the huge variety of other geek activities will stop it growing. Geeks only have so much time, and miniature wargaming eats a lot of it up, as we all know.

      I just don't know. LARP for example has been around for ages, looks like good fun, has been the subject of several movies (mainstream and otherwise), but I still don't see it ever becoming a thing most geeks do.

    3. Jams only history will tell who is right and who is wrong. Besides I'm not so sure it's all that important. Even if the industry stays at its current levels I think it will be fine. But other product from other companies appeals to different geeks in different ways... ways that GWs product was never likely to.

      There's also women. Simple fact is that the hobby as a whole hasn't done nearly enough to court women. Last time I checked they made up roughly 50% of the population. I would have thought that it's an untapped market that is still waiting to be exposed. I don't buy the crap sprouted by some that women just aren't interested. I've found plenty of females who are interested in the hobby but are put off or just haven't been exposed to it.

      There's hope for growth yet. Nope the biggest threat is the loss of the FLGS due to competition from online retailers. THe biggest single way to get people into the hobby is via the demo game. Simple as that.

    4. Yep I agree that the industry will be OK if it stays at current levels. Obviously there are enough gamers out there to support the companies, or they wouldn't exist right? (I'm no business man).

      Also great point about women. I still regularly meet (male) gamers who think that girls don't play video games, when not only does every woman in my circle of family and close friends play video games (including my 55 year old mum, currently playing Skyrim), surveys consistently show that a little under 50% of video gamers are female. I agree women are the most likely source of new recruits.

      And yeah... without the FLGS the only source of new gamers would be the friends and family of current gamers.

      I also think big events and tournaments are hugely over-rated as a tool for bringing in beginners. Out of all the gamers I've known personally as friends over my life, I'm the only one who ever enters tournaments. I think this is because only two kinds of people go in tournaments: competitive types and people who don't give a shit when they lose (guess which one I am lol).

      Most people, especially at the beginning of their gaming journey, are in the middle between those two poles. They don't see the main purpose of a game as being to win, but they get annoyed if they don't win sometimes!

    5. Yep women are a big market, it's like in political walks of life when I hear that "women's" issues are lumped in with minority interest groups as level of importance it astounds me. I mean how the hell can an issue that effects 50% of your population be a sodding minority issue? Seriously!!! o.0

      I've even burst out laughing in a meeting over the claims of a local politician that a certain women's issue was a minority issue. I couldn't believe that it actually came out of the mouth of a women. Simply unbelievable. Any way I digress...

      Women are a massively untapped marketplace for most wargames and wargames products. Why? Because we are still making purely boys toys. There hasn't really been any attempts to court female gamers, and I'm not talking about making My Little Pony the wargame, I'm just talking about specifically targeting females. Why not?

      As to the death of the FLGS... it's a sad discussion to have but it seems most people are far too wrapped up in their own selfish self interest to realise they have a greater responsibility to the community and hobby at large. I'm not being all pious and self righteous here. Would I buy stuff from my local store right now? No! Because he's at least 20% more expensive than everywhere else online. But to run the shop locally in a major UK city he needs to be. So I'm just as hypocritical.